HISTORY OF THE BRISTOL TRAMPS SPORTS REUNION
After many conversations with each other, and whenever they met during the early months of 1970, Julie Larese, Ray “Harp” Broderick, Dom Netti, and John Duffy held a meeting at Netti’s Grinder Shop on Middle Street to decide whether they should establish an annual sports reunion in Bristol. That night they decided to go forward with plans and arrangements, to round up eight to ten more members to form a committee, and hold the first reunion in the spring.
A committee of more than a dozen members met regularly at Julie Larese’s barn on East Main Street in Forestville where all future meetings would be held. It decided that the reunion would consist of a gathering for dinner at a hall in Bristol, and plaques would be awarded after dinner to two athletes and two teams which figured prominently in Bristol sports history. The committee settled on a date and site for the reunion, decided on a menu, printed and sold tickets, and selected Phil Alexander and Ben Brezicki and the Phantoms and the Sons of Italy softball teams to receive the first awards. The reunion was held in April and was a huge success.
Julie Larese was the driving force behind the sports reunion from the beginning. Because he thought more about the reunion between meetings, talked to everyone about it and he was more apt to have concrete ideas to present to the committee. He designed the menu, and it was a winner from the first. He proposed most of the changes in the program, which were introduced over time. He came to the first meeting every year with a few suggested names to be considered as award recipients and his suggestions more than often accepted. It seems logical that some people should call the Sports Reunion, “Julie’s Party”.
The first reunion was held at the Elks Club in Bristol in April and nearly 300 attended. The first reunion was considered a great success and a genuine reunion, as athletes and former athletes; their opponents and their fans sat together at the same tables and reminisced. The committee decided to move the reunion to different location and the second year it was held at the West End Club. As the reunion steadily grew in attendance, there was a need for a larger halls. Therefore the third reunion was held at the Polish American Club. In later years, the reunion was also held at Nate Mafale’s Lions Den, the Sofia Room and Sebastians.
A program long enough to cover the subject but brief enough to be interesting evolved over the early years. Each year the affair began at 7:30 P.M. on a Friday night in mid April with the singing of the National Anthem, and a moment of reflection with the projection of photographs and intoning the names of deceased recipients and others who would have been recipients had they lived. The invocation and dinner followed. After dinner, Julie Larese introduced the Toastmasters, Wally Sonstroem, Tom Monahan, or Max Rabin, who then introduced the Mayor of Bristol for a welcoming speech. Presentation of awards followed and for many years, committee members introduced the honorees and presented them with their award. The reunion usually closed shortly after 10:00 P.M.
All throughout the history of the Bristol Tramps Sports Reunion, the menu has generally remained the same with the food uniformly good and plentiful with seconds all around. Sports people are usually thought to be big eaters, and the Sports Reunion was no exception. Dinner has been enjoyed by all attendees over the years.
Over the history of the Bristol Tramps Sports Reunion, approximately one hundred persons, twenty- five teams, one institution, the Bristol Press, and one school, St. Joseph’s School, won awards in the years that have past. These recipients have come from every part of Bristol, every sport and every social level. Forty percent of the recipients won the award as athletes, thirty percent for having fostered the playing of sports as coaches, officials, publicists, sponsors, promoters, etc. The last thirty percent were fine athletes who later fostered sports as coaches, officials, etc. Some committee members thought that the last category was the most deserving. A few recipients were born in the 19th century, more in the first decade of the 20th century and still more in the second decade. The largest number were born in the twenties, fewer in the thirties and still fewer in the later years. All times produce fine athletes and good people who foster the sports we watch. Bristol has been very fortunate to have so many of these sportsmen in both categories.
In more recent years, the Bristol Tramps have honored persons by categories named after some of Bristol’s prominent sports figures. The awards are named after Julie Larese, “Harp” Broderick, Bill Garrett, Lydia Jabs Bailey, Ron Choiniere and Chuck McCarthy. A $500.00 scholarship program was established in 1999, which was awarded to a deserving senior from each of Bristol’s three High Schools who is involved in athletics. A Committee Award was also been established to honor prominent organizations involved in athletics.
The following past and present members of the Bristol Tramps Committee have been inducted into the Bristol Hall of Fame: Ed Beardsley, Armand Choinere, Tony Carrier, Debbie James, Julie Larese, Anthony Lodovico, Frank Longo, Thomas Murrone, Dan Valerio, and James Ziogas Jr. In addition, the Bristol Tramps Organization was inducted into the Hall of Fame for helping preserve Bristol’s rich sports history.
This history was written by John Duffy, a Lifetime Member of the Bristol Tramps Sports Reunion Committee and supplemented by then Executive Director, Tony Savino.
For more information on Julie Larese, click here.